Primitive Canada

Classic Canada: clearcuts and glaciers
Classic Canada: clearcuts and glaciers

Back in pioneer days, finding one’s way up a mountain, or even from one town to another, required one to unearth and collate local information from loggers, miners, and outdoorsmen. At some point in the United States, the Forest Service, Parks Service, and Federal Highway Administration created a unified network of roads and trails, and made information about them universally available. Early mountaineers could rely on this network to get within striking distance of peaks.

As I have found, beyond the highways and National Parks, access in Canada is essentially “pioneer-level.” Access depends on the whims of logging companies, local clubs, and individuals. At best, one finds a volunteer-maintained trail with a subtle “trailhead” sign, like this:

Good trailhead signage
Good trailhead signage

After successfully using this trail recently, I headed up a maze of logging roads toward another nearby trailhead. Thanks to some turn-by-turn directions, I was able to drive to within about a kilometer of the purported trailhead, where the road finally became impassable. Hiking the rest of the way in the morning, instead of some kind of marker, I found this:

Bad trailhead
Bad trailhead

Continuing up the winding logging roads, I happened to spy orange markers for another “trail,” which I later learned is mentioned in the most recent local guidebooks. I bashed up a clear-cut following the markers, then promptly lost them in the open old-growth forest above. Travel wasn’t bad in the big trees and modest undergrowth, but after another 10-15 minutes of seeing nothing, I decided I was not in a “pioneering” mood.

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